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Welcome to the Fly Catcher - At Porlock Weir - Kubla Khan

S T Coleridge himself used to refer to his journals as Fly Catchers, as he wanted to catch ideas down before they flittered away. This project was tasked with digitally geolocating pages from Coleridge's own early journals back into the Somerset landscape which inspired him.

To view this work you must journey to Porlock Weir.

I would like to thank both Mrs Cassam who is the current copyright holder of Coleridge's works and The British Library who have permitted me to use these images for this site specific project.

Christopher Jelley
Chapter one

The Fly Catchers

This journal extract, which has been geo-located at Porlock Weir, is Samuel Taylor Coleridge's most famous poem Kubla Khan. The paper is wafer thin with the text visible from both sides, and is often referred to as the Crewe Manuscript. It is usually on permanent display within The Treasures of the British Library, but fortuitously the manuscript was not in the cabinets when I visited. This enabled me to have the privilege of viewing without the impediment of glass and also to see both recto and verso (both sides).

This is the only penned copy by Samuel Taylor Coleridge of Kubla Khan in existence, and I have transcribed the text to support your reading. There are differences between this (1797) and the copy which Coleridge published in 1816, which I will bring to your attention at the end.
Chapter two

Other Fly Catchers

There are two other Fly Catcher journals which I have installed around West Somerset.

Nether Stowey - Geolocated on the mound of Nether Stowey Castle you will be able to read, penned in Coleridge's hand, a poem authored by William Wordsworth. The poem is dedicated to Coleridge's son Hartley who was six years old at the time.

Watchet - As you walk the west harbour wall in Watchet a series of four pages from 'The Gutch Book' are revealed. These are an eclectic mix of notes from Coleridge's most famous journal.
Porlock Weir, West Somerset. Head over the harbour by crossing the metal bridge, the first section will reveal on the other side. I have broken the poem into rhythmic sections, each segment is revealed in order as you walk this specific path. Once over the bridge head to the right of the cottages in front of you, and thread through a little path which leads to the beach beyond. On the seaward side, walk to the Pill Box directly in front of you, then left along the beach ridge to the second Pill Box (war time defence building.) Along this path all the parts of the poem will reveal, with the final extract at the second Pill Box. The walk should take only 20 minutes, but please note the beach is of large cobble stone and is not easily accessible for wheel chairs.
Chapter three

In Xannadu did Kubla Khan
A stately Pleasure Dome decree;
Where Alph, the sacred River, ran
Thro' Caverns measureless to Man
Down to a sunless sea.
Chapter four

So twice six miles of fertile ground
With Walls and Towers were campass'd round:
And there were Gardens bright with sinuous Rills
Where blossom'd many an incense-bearing Tree,
And here were forests ancient as the Hills
Enfolding sunny spots of Greenery.
Chapter five

But o! that deep romantic chasm, that slanted
Down a green Hill athwart a cedar Cover,
A savage Place, as holy and inchanted
As e'er beneath a waning Moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover:
From forth this Chasm with hideous Turmoil seething,
as if this Earth in fast think Pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forc'd,
amid where swift half-intermitted Burst
Chapter six

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding Hail,
or chaffy Grain beneath the threshers flail,
And mid these dancing rocks at once & ever
It flung up momentarily the sacred River,
Five miles meandering with a mazy Motion
Thro' wood and Dale the sacred River ran,
The reach'd the Caverns measureless to Man,
And sank in Tumult to a lifeless Ocean;
and amid this Tumult Cubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying War.
Chapter seven

The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the wave
Where was heard the mingled Measure
From the fountain and the Cave
It was a miracle of rare device
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with Caves of Ice!

A Damsel with a Dulcimer
Chapter eight


Walk behind the cottages along the ridge of the beach towards the Pill Box, the remainder of the manuscript will reveal.
Chapter nine

In a vision once I saw
It was an Abyssinian Maid,
And on her Dulcimer she play'd
Singing of Mount Amara
Could I revive within me
Her symphony & song,
To such a deep Delight 'twould win me,
That with Music loud and long
Chapter ten

I would build that Dome in the Air
That sunny Dome! those Caves of Ice!
and all, who heard, should see them there
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing Eyes! his floating Hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your Eyes in holy dread
For He on Honey dew hath fed
And drank the Milk of Paradise. -
Chapter eleven

This fragment with a good deal more, not
recoverable, confused, in a sort of Reverie brought
on by two grains of Opium, taken to check a
dysentery, at a farm house between Porlock &
Linton, a quarter of a mile from Culbone Church,
in the fall of the year, 1797.---
S.T Coleridge
Chapter twelve

Chapter thirteen

Chapter fourteen


There are difference's between the first printed copy of Kubla Khan 1816, and the Crewe Manuscript which was penned in 1797.

This copy (Crewe Manuscript)

- So twice six miles of fertile ground
- With Walls and Towers were compass'd round.

1816 text

- So twice five miles of fertile ground
- With walls and towers were girdled round.

This copy (Crewe Manuscript)

- From forth this Chasm with hideous Turmoil seething

1816 text

- And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething

This copy (Crewe Manuscript)

- It was an Abyssinian Maid,
- And on her Dulcimer she play'd
- Singing of Mount Amara.

1816 text

- It was an Abyssinian Maid,
- And on her Dulcimer she play'd
- Singing of Mount Abora.

Note - Mount Amara is mentioned in John Miltons 'Paradise Lost' which Coleridge was familiar with.
Chapter fifteen

Thank you for walking this Fly Catcher.

There are three Fly Catchers in all.

Nether Stowey, Porlock Weir and Watchet, all set in locations we have good evidence that Coleridge walked.

Visit the Coleridge Way Blog to discover other artistic projects funded by ARTlife, which have been inspired by the great Romantic Poet.


Fly Catcher project and all rights reserved Christopher Jelley http://storywalks.info

Images are copyright of The British Library and are used here with written consent.

Words are copyright of Ms P Cassam who has also given written consent for this project.

Funded by ARTlife
Chapter sixteen

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